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2??8Book Reviews459 Gilded Age. Even though the book can be tedious at times, academicians undoubtedly will appreciate the author's attention to detail and his impeccable research. Additionally, there are enough human interest stories widiin the narrative to keep the attention ofgeneral readers. Simply stated, this book is a must read for anyone who purports to study Texas history. Prairie View AafM UniversityKenneth W. Howell Buried in Bitter Waters: The Hidden History ofRacial Cleansing in America. By Elliott Jaspin. (NewYork: Basic Books, 2007. Pp. 348. Illustrations, map, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-46503-636-8. $26.95, cloth.) This book is both troubling and fascinating. It is part history, partjournalism, and part personal saga. Jaspin, ajournalist, stumbled upon a significant historical question: why did some communities in the United States experience a sudden, dramatic, and permanent decline in their black population. Furthermore, there seemed to be no historical memory ofthese demographic changes. After researching a number of diese communities,Jaspin concluded that he had uncovered a previously hidden history of"racial cleansing" in America. In the twelve communities that he documented, racial violence, or direct threats ofviolence were utilized systematically to drive black residents away, and to create virtually all-white communities. Jaspin focuses his study on twelve incidents in twelve small communities over a sixty-year period from 1864 to 1923. Two each took place in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Likewise, two-diirds occurred in the last quarter of the time period, between 1908 and 1923. Jaspin also uncovered racial cleansing in Texas, Missouri, Georgia, and North Carolina.Jaspin's great strength is his ability to tease out a detailed and compelling account of racial injustice from the most meager of sources, uncovering memories that most communities, at least their white inhabitants, had either forgotten or suppressed. Each episode was unique, but some patterns emerge. Often a crime or a series ofcrimes, usually murder and rape perpetrated against a woman, triggered the mob, but on some occasions economic forces such as competition forjobs were in play. Usually diere was a consensus that supported the racial cleansing, but occasionally die white community divided, or law enforcement, the local press, or state officials attempted to intervene. In almost all cases the numbers of blacks forced to flee were small, and blacks comprised a very small percent of the community prior to the cleansing. The Texas case is an example. In 1886 only about forty or fifty blacks lived in Comanche County, mosdy in the county seat of Comanche. The murder ofa white woman by a black farmhand sparked the event. A white mob tracked down the suspect, brought him back to the county, and then executed him. The mob then ordered all blacks to leave Comanche County within ten days. White residents ofdie town protested the order as unnecessary and unjust, and the sheriff, out-manned and out-gunned by the mob, appealed to die Texas Rangers for help. By the time the Rangers arrived virtually all blacks had fled the county. They never returned. Jaspin does an excellentjob uncovering the history of these long-suppressed examples ofracial violence. He effectively uses scraps ofinformation—a newspaper 460Southwestern Historical QuarterlyApril account, census records, or an interview with a descendant of the community or the black survivors—to piece together a story of die expulsion ofseveral hundred blacks from their homes and communities. Jaspin is less successful in attempting to place his story in its larger historical context. His knowledge of history and his selection ofsources is flawed, and he occasionally overgeneralizes, misinterprets, or relies on dated or less than reliable secondary sources. There is also the question of die use of the term "racial cleansing." This term conjures up images of Bosnia or Darfur where hundreds of thousands were systematically resettled or slaughtered in a human tragedy of immense proportions. Jaspin's editors at the Austin American -Statesman, where he first ran his story, ultimately rejected the term, substituting instead "racial expulsion." They also eliminated references to his charges that the AtlantaJournal-Constitution was complicit in covering an episode of racial cleansing in nearby Forsyth County, Georgia. In spite ofJaspin's occasional flaws of scholarship and his digression into...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 459-460
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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